All Roads Lead Home

Years ago, when I lived in Frederick, Maryland and had four children still living at home, then three, then two... we had Sunday Dinner. We ate our big meal in the middle of the day, and then, as darkness fell, we usually had syrup-drenched waffles and crisply-fried bacon for supper. I still have the old waffle iron; every time I dig around in the lower cupboards looking for a 9x13 pan, I move the waffle iron out of my way and I think about those days, and how I never make waffles anymore.

But I do have Sunday Dinner again. Jim and I eat our big meal midday almost every day now, because I'm home (I'm home!) and he is a musician and works many evenings, and because we just like it like that... I work mornings, take a break for dinner, and go back to work in the afternoon. Sometimes we even catch a nap before my staff visits from across the street.

It's a very good system for us, and now that three of my four children live here in Atlanta, I've decided to institute Sunday Dinner again. Come if you can make it, I say, I'll make plenty, and we'll be here.

Last Sunday Zach baked the bread. He used rosemary from our garden, and it was oh-so-good. We ate in Irene -- the hot weather has broken, and eating outside is bearable.

Here are leftovers on Monday, salad and cornbread I made from scratch. I hid the mashed potatoes under the salad; if'n I don't see 'em, the calories don't count, right? Right?

Supper the same day -- add an egg for protein, for this mostly-vegetarian girl.

This Sunday, dinner is later. I'm off to the airport to pick up a friend who is home from vacation. Hannah is on her way home from Florida with friend Richard in tow... and all of Richard's belongings. Richard is moving in for a time. Richard is a love. We are happy to have him. And our family of choice expands.

Marianne Richardson and the lower school teachers at Heritage School are family of choice now as well.

We spent Friday together, writing our personal narratives, laughing and sharing and sometimes even shedding a tear or two -- oh what a lucky writer am I -- I know it.

I wanted to leave you with a few photos of Marianne's classroom, where we met. The books on this table represent Marianne's summer reading. She has offered these books to her seventh-grade students and she Has Opinions. We chewed on these books at lunchtime (!). Oh, to be a student in this seventh-grade classroom!

Oh, to sit on a chair at this "Island Library" -- a print of a painting by Jamie Wyeth that hangs above the books.

Oh, to have this classroom library like this one! Here is one wall:

You can see the Wyeth and the summer reading below it. Look at all the picture books in this seventh-grade classroom --

Marianne still uses picture books extensively, and reads aloud every day to her students.

Another wall. more picture books, as well.

Excellent, excellent.

How many of you read to your students every day? How many of you read, period, every day? I'm finding that reading for pleasure is harder and harder to do -- I've got to make a point of making time. And with a library like this one, I would have no end of delicious reads... one reason I'm sure Marianne keeps such a classroom library (well... for her students, not for me!); a library of many years' worth of collecting.

I would love to hear about your classroom libraries, how you use them, how you have collected them, how they have changed over the years, and how they continue to change -- your hopes for them, your dreams.

We begin -- all fourteen of us are assembled for a day of writing together -- personal narrative writing, as that's what we must teach our students as well -- and Marianne stands to introduce me and gather us together... behind her to her right is a bulletin board of places she visited with friend Meredith (who is with us as well; Meredith Wilson is Heritage's art teacher -- I want her for my art teacher as well). Those places are all artistic -- Martha's Vineyard, Louisa May Alcott's home, Emily Dickinson's home, the Wyeth home in Maine, Walden Pond, Marianne's childhood home in Greenwood, Mississippi... "I know a place..." (Do you see the E.B. White in the foreground?)

And the stories! All about home, in one way or another. Dads who took the whole neighborhood to get ice cream ("We didn't even ask him to take us..."); or to see The Beatles ("He couldn't get over the girls screaming!); pulling a little red wagon and selling newspapers with front page stories of Elvis on them ("These were not ordinary papers!"); a friend falling out of the car during a car pool ride and becoming a hero ("horn roaring, wheels screaming!"); spending Christmas with Granddaddy ("bored out of my mind!") and yet treasuring every moment; Grandpa coloring his one-and-only-time with a grandchild ("Where's the orange?"); walking the beach with Mom and Dad and finding out that Daddy is happiest right then, right there, with his family ("balanced on a little cliff of sand"); the gift of Chanel No. 5 ("My mother said it was an apology."); the telephone party lines ("Catherine, is that YOU?"); and "What do you mean, there's no bathroom?" and on and on and ON -- and we shared strategies for teaching personal narrative writing.

We had stories to tell on Friday -- and we told them. Wrote them. Shared them. We know one another so much better. And if we tell these stories to our students, and help them tell and write their stories... just think of how much better off the entire world will be. It's all about story. It really is.

It's all about home.

Maybe the memory of home is held in Sunday Dinner, or restructuring a family, or finding treasure in a classroom library, or being brave enough to scribble in a notebook, dig for a memory, and share it...

Whatever it is, the magic of story is what brings us home.

Thank you, Marianne, thank you teachers, thank you Heritage School...

Write for your life! Tell your stories.

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